2019  HIKING, ULTRA-WALKING,

& RV TRAVEL ADVENTURES

Superstition Mountains at sunset, from Lost Dutchman State Park in Arizona

 

   
 
Runtrails' Web Journal
 
Previous       2019 Journal Topics       Home       Next
 

   CALLAWAY GARDENS, Part 1: INTRODUCTION 
  & AZALEAS AT PEAK IN THE OVERLOOK GARDEN

FRIDAY, MARCH 29

"Escape the everyday all year long. Callaway Resort & Gardens offers four seasons of   
adventure, relaxation, and fun in Mother Nature's breathtaking landscape.
Take in the vibrant blossoms of Spring on over 2,500 spectacular acres
filled with hiking and bike trails and world-class golf . . ."
 
~ Callaway Gardens' current home page
 
 
Gosh. It's been about thirty years since I've visited Callaway Gardens near Pine Mountain, GA -- and Jim's never been there -- so when a friend reported that the azaleas were at peak bloom, it prompted us to go. It's only about an hour's drive from our current home in Peachtree City.

Before we drove down there I did some research on the resort's website to re-familiarize myself with the layout and to see what was new since I'd been there in the 1980s and 1990s.

I noticed that the annual pass looked like a good deal for folks who live relatively close and can visit several times a year. It also includes two complimentary passes for guests. That gave us more incentive to check it out since my brother and sister-in-law planned to visit in a couple weeks. I knew they'd enjoy the beautiful landscapes, whatever flowers were in bloom in mid-April (rhododendrons!), and the butterfly center. 


Along the Azalea Overlook Trail

OK. Let's go!

Callaway Gardens is one of the premier places in the country to see acres and acres of mature azaleas when they are at peak bloom. Although that's the main attraction in March and April, plenty of other things are blooming in the spring and summer, too, and all sorts of activities and special events are planned year-round to entice visitors to come.

Since we knew the gardens would be packed on weekends while the azaleas were at peak bloom, we drove down with the dogs early on a Thursday in late March to see what's new, walk some trails with Holly and Casey, and take photos.

You can't go to a beautiful garden like this and not take photos!! I took a bunch, although it was trickier with a young exuberant dog on-leash. The place was gorgeous!


Azalea Overlook Trail

Imagine my disbelief and disappointment when I tried to download a couple hundred photos from my fancy Sony bridge camera to my computer . . . and there were NONE on the memory card! And I didn't take any with my phone that day.

OMG and worse came out of my mouth.

Yes, the card was in my camera. No, it wasn't full; it has a huge capacity. What happened, apparently, was that the card wasn't all the way down in its slot. I was so busy looking around, keeping Holly close to me, and trying to keep up with Jim that I didn't see any messages on the screen or check periodically to verify that I was actually recording photos.

Dammit. So I did what any avid photographer would do: 

I drove back down to Callaway Gardens -- alone -- the next day and took lots more photos!

Twice as many, in fact -- more than 500 on the big camera and my phone. And you better believe I was checking that Sony camera about every third picture to make sure the card was recording.

I'll bet the photos were better the second time. It was much easier by myself to compose the shots, stop as long as I wanted to gaze at the gorgeous scenery, and walk/drive other places in the park that Jim and I didn't go yesterday. I got there early enough that the only place that was crowded was the Butterfly Center, which I didn't reach until 1 PM.


Cecil C. Day Butterfly Center

Most of the photos in this multi-page series are from March 29, except for one with the dogs that Jim took the day before with his phone.

GARDEN NOTES

Some of the azalea varieties had already peaked by late March but some others had not bloomed yet. Bloom time varies from year to year, as well as by type of azaleas, so check the Callaway Gardens website for updates on peak blooms if you're traveling from any distance.

Dogwood and redbud trees were in bloom, too, as well as mountain laurels, some early rhododendrons, and lots of wildflowers. Something is blooming year-round in Middle Georgia.

Callaway Gardens is big -- 2,500 acres big. It's hard to see everything in one day if you want to do some hiking, cycling, golfing, or other activities in addition to driving around the lakes and going into the Discovery Center and butterfly conservatory.

Here's a tiny version of the property map from the website: 

I'll organize this series of five entries by starting at the center bottom of the map at the Overlook Azalea Garden Trails and work my way clockwise around large Mountain Creek Lake to the Azalea Bowl, Memorial Chapel, Discovery Center, Wildflower Trail, and Butterfly Center.

Note that much of that driving loop is one-way going clockwise around Mountain Creek Lake.

I also drove up to Robin Lake the second day and checked out more of the golf course.


View of Robin Lake looking toward the beach area

OVERLOOK AZALEA GARDEN TRAILS

During the spring when the azaleas are in bloom the area most visitors head to first is the Overlook Azalea Garden, not just because it's the main show but also because it's the first spur road on the left (clockwise) past the main gate.

The parking area wasn't crowded when we got there at 9:05 both mornings, right after the gate opened, but it could be full later in the morning/afternoon on a busy day.


The yellow lines = hiking trails, red ones = bike paths, white = roadways.


There are restrooms near the entrance to the Overlook parking area and a long
pavilion at the end of the lot, overlooking the azalea gardens and Whippoorwill Lake.

A network of soft woodchip trails winds down the hill between the parking area and Mockingbird Lake below. It's a beautiful, quiet place to walk slowly and enjoy the abundance of pink, red, salmon, white, and purple azalea blooms.

Here's a sampling of azaleas blooming in the Overlook Azalea Garden in late March this year:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There are also a few Mountain laurels in this area . . .

. . . and this striking type of Pieris:

I took these pictures of the lower part of the Overlook Azalea Garden from the main road as I was driving to my next destination within the park:

 

 

I took the next photos as I was driving clockwise around Mountain Creek Lake to the second largest collection of azaleas in the park, the Callaway Brothers Azalea Bowl:

Above and below:  In addition to about 10 miles of bike paths, cyclists have
a safe lane to themselves on one-way roads like this one at Callaway Gardens.

Continued on the next pagemore colorful azaleas, another scenic lake, and the beautiful memorial chapel at the Azalea Bowl

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, and Holly-Pup

Previous       Next

2019 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

-